Tonight two couples are coming for dinner. One is a couple from Alaska that Jerry enjoys talking to, because his favorite subject is Alaska. The other is my second cousin, Jon and his wife. Jon and I are both from the east coast. We are the first in the family to come west and we ended up on the same tiny island. We didn’t know each other until we moved here. Small world.
I found some memoirs of my father’s in which he talks about his cousin, Jon’s father, in unflattering terms. But that was a long time ago, Jon is a good sport, and eager to hear about it. We are going to make copies and send them to his sister.
Here’s the jist of the story. My father was a young man living with his parents in Switzerland. Jon’s father, Alan, and another cousin, our uncle Louis, were visiting from the United States having just graduated from college. My father said that Alan regarded him as “an effete Europeanized bookworm.”
According to my father’s account, the two cousins from the States spent most of the time throwing a ball. They saw a snake and killed it, though my father told them it was not poisonous.
My father’s favorite pastime was mountain climbing, and he was in Switzerland. He writes:
I thought, okay, let’s have a mountain climb, the four of us [the 3 cousins and a friend]. Maybe I will show them something they didn’t know about me – I’m not quite so effete as they think. I had been climbing around for a month or two and they had just come up from sea level. I knew that I had in all probability more hemoglobin than they because I had been at high altitudes longer.
We had a guide, and when we got to the glacier we roped ourselves together. I said to the guide, “I’ve had some experience on glaciers, would you mind if I lead?” I lead, and the guide was the last one on the rope. I did this with a definite plan. Alan was next to me on the rope. I knew that they, being inexperienced as mountain climbers, would not know what pace they could sustain. One of the first things that you learn when you start to climb is that you can’t maintain a fast pace long enough to last the whole climb. So I set a pace which I knew they couldn’t sustain, and I knew I could.
What surprised me was that it happened – what I was anticipating and hoping for – happened so quickly. Alan gave a sudden tug on the rope, and, panting, he said, “I… can’t… go… like… that.” So he learned something about the effete Europeanized bookworm.
Our objective was one of the peaks of the Monta Rosa, a lesser peak, but still, 15,000 feet. On the first day we got from where we started at 5,000 to 10,000 and spent the night in a hut. The second day we went up, mostly over ice and snow, to another hut just a little below the peak. We stopped there for lunch, and the other 3 who had come from sea level so recently didn’t want to go farther. I went with the guide to the peak. It was the highest I had ever climbed. I got a slight headache, that was all.
I know Jon will enjoy this, and some other writing about our parents and grandparents.
We are having roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and salad. An easy dinner. I am trying to tame my ambition when it comes to cooking as I get older, so dinners are not so stressful. Dessert will be store bought cream puffs with chocolate sauce. To start we will have some lovely wild king salmon strips canned by a friend in Alaska.